As temperatures are expected to dip below freezing this weekend, some areas of Florida are under a “falling iguana” watch.
The cold can cause iguanas to lose consciousness and fall out of trees. (When they warm up, they revive.)
According to the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Services (UF/IFAS) website, “Due to Florida's prominence in the exotic pet trade, iguanas imported as pets have escaped or been released, and are now established in South Florida. This has created unique problems for Florida's homeowners and businesses.
“South and Central Florida's subtropical climate allows these large herbivorous (plant-eating) lizards to survive, reproduce, and become part of the Florida environment. Three large members of the iguana family (Iguanidae) have become established in south Florida.
“Adult iguanas are herbivores feeding on foliage, flowers, and fruit. They will occasionally eat animal material such as insects, lizards, and other small animals, nestling birds and eggs. This creates problems for Florida’s native wildlife. They also burrow under sidewalks, seawalls and foundations. Adult iguanas can bite and scratch people and pets. Iguanas are considered an invasive species.
“Iguanas can be captured and removed from private property at any time without special permits. During winter cold fronts, cold-stunned iguanas can sometimes be simply picked from branches or picked off the ground after they fall from the trees.”
It is illegal to release iguanas in Florida. So what do you do with an iguana after catching it?
UF/IFAS advises: “Because of the large numbers of nuisance iguanas being captured there are limited live donation options available to homeowners. Many wildlife care centers and wildlife rehabilitators don't have the room or resources to care for them. This means that euthanasia is the most humane method of disposal.
“Other acceptable methods of euthanasia include: Carbon dioxide chamber, if meat is to be consumed; Halothane, Isoflurane, Sevoflurane administered by a veterinarian; stunning followed by decapitation; and, shooting or stunning with a captive bolt gun followed by decapitation.”
IFAS also advises “the meat of adult iguanas and the eggs are eaten and considered a delicacy throughout their native range, especially during Easter week. As of 2004, the price of iguana meat was $14/pound in Maryland. Large adults, too dangerous to be kept as pets, may have value as meat in ethnic markets that cater to immigrants from Central and South America. However, make arrangements with the market manager before showing up with a sack of iguanas.”